Meticulous planner gets ready for job as new chief prosecutor in Lexington

Rick Hubbard in runoff for solicitor

11th circuit solicitor candidate Rick Hubbard talks about his campaign continuing with a runoff against Candice Lively.
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11th circuit solicitor candidate Rick Hubbard talks about his campaign continuing with a runoff against Candice Lively.

Rick Hubbard already is preparing the first steps he will take after becoming chief prosecutor in Lexington County and nearby areas in January.

Known for meticulous planning, Hubbard said he is mulling “in my head on what I need to do” when he becomes the first new 11th Circuit solicitor in 40 years.

Hubbard is set to take over after winning the Republican nomination for the position in a runoff election last week.

His victory is tantamount to winning the post since no other candidate is on the Nov. 8 ballot, although a long-shot write-in effort could develop.

He will replace his mentor as Solicitor Donnie Myers retires at 71 after a state record of 40 years in the job.

Hubbard’s focus will be keeping communities safe, particularly by being tough on violent crime.

Hubbard is familiar with the inner workings of the office after 22 years as an assistant who rose to second-in-command under Myers.

No major staff shake-up is likely, but he is looking at changes to better match skills and enable veteran assistants to help season those with less experience. “Part of the job is grooming the new leaders in the office,” he said.

He also want “to stay on top” of handling nonviolent offenses faster to help reduce jail overcrowding.

And he will look at ways to expand victim assistance and provide more legal expertise to the outlying areas of the circuit – Edgefield, McCormick and Saluda counties – to handle rising demand for that help.

But his leadership style differs from that of Myers, in some respects.

Hubbard promises to be more open publicly about operations and decisions on pursuing, settling or dropping criminal charges against alleged offenders.

He intends to appear regularly before community groups and sometimes use social media to explain and listen. “We haven’t been doing that,” he said.

With that in mind, Hubbard just joined a Rotary Club in Lexington to network with local leaders.

One thing remains unchanged: Like Myers, Hubbard will focus on keeping communities safe, particularly by being tough on violent crime.

Hubbard personally will lead the effort to obtain the death penalty for Timothy Jones, charged with killing his five children in August 2014 at the family home in Red Bank.

It’s one of the largest mass killings in decades in the Midlands. No trial date is set.

“I will absolutely be involved in that,” Hubbard said.

He also will settle in as one of the new leaders of county law enforcement who have arrived during the past two years, replacing predecessors who were there four decades.

He already has a strong friendship with Sheriff Jay Koon, who called Hubbard “the steady hand we need” in campaigning for him.

Hubbard doesn’t know Coroner Margaret Fisher well, but the pair appear off to a good start after initial discussions focused on cooperation.

“We’re all on the same page,” Fisher said. “I think it’s going to be a great relationship.”

University of South Carolina law school faculty member Candice Lively, whom he defeated in the runoff, expressed support for Hubbard after sometimes strident exchanges during the campaign.

“We must all come together and focus on the ultimate goal of improving our community,” she said in a message on social media.

The long hours at the office ahead for Hubbard don’t concern his wife, Ann, who is retiring at the end of the year from overseeing pretrial diversion for nonviolent offenders at the solicitor’s office.

“I’ve been there before,” she said, referring to his work ethic as an assistant solicitor and assistant state attorney general.

But Hubbard, 51, hopes to pace himself better in a role he says is his calling. He is reducing coffee consumption – “usually the strongest thing I drink” – and replacing it with water.

He listens to audio books, mostly about history, while driving his truck. Completing them may take longer since the trip to the solicitor’s headquarters in Lexington is a short drive from his home in the Gilbert area.

Hubbard is looking at part-time legal work amid planning the transition. “It will be nothing that poses a conflict of interest with the job I’m taking,” he said.

He is low key in planning his takeover, saying he doesn’t want to upstage Myers’ departure.

Friends describe the pair as almost like brothers despite being opposites in personality.

Myers is an old-school social extrovert known for courtroom theatrics. He is challenging his arrest Feb. 22 for driving under the influence, his third alcohol-related traffic offense in 11 years.

Hubbard has a more prosaic style, saying he typically “recharges” by puttering around his country home with three dogs, reading and watching television with his wife.

Despite those differences, Hubbard admires Myers for his legal skills and insights into people.

“I want to make sure he gets the respect he’s due,” Hubbard said.

Tim Flach: 803-771-8483